The term “freelancer” is popular, but it’s not the subject of any laws. This is what Tine Tytgat, lawyer at Randstad, says. “Our laws refer to the term ‘self-employed’, and this status differs to that of employee in many ways.”
“Freelancers should take out liability insurance.” Tine Tytgat Lawyer at Randstad
A self-employed person is someone who, according to the law, works without a relationship of authority or subordination with the employer. “This is how a self-employed person is different than the typical employee,” says Tine Tytgat. “Moreover, an employee and an employer are bound by many mutual rights and obligations. This is not the case for the self-employed and their clients: they have a great deal of freedom within the framework of their contract, while any kind of illegal activity is absolutely not tolerated.”
You often hear: “Freelancers are their own boss”. But is this true? “The self-employed must consider their clients’ requirements,” argues Tine Tytgat. “They are expected to perform their services correctly. In addition, they can be held liable for the damages they cause. This is not the case for employees: they can only be held personally responsible in the event of serious negligence, repeated minor errors, or misconduct. An employee cannot be held responsible in all other cases. This can never be a point of discussion.”
It’s clear that a freelancer can be held liable for direct and indirect damages. He or she can negotiate this with the client. “Agree a reasonable maximum sum in advance,” advises Tina Tytgat. “This sum depends to a great extent on the type of assignment and the agreed tasks. The self-employed working together with Randstad to offer their services can often benefit from the agreements that Randstad has negotiated with the client in this respect.”
Good insurance coverage against risks is a must for a freelancer. This is especially important if you operate as a natural person because you are not protected by the limited liability of a private limited liability company. Tine Tytgat: “In addition to professional liability insurance, you should also take out a third-party liability insurance to avoid potential problems. You’re well covered with these two policies. However, if you plan to employ your own staff, you will also need occupational accidents insurance, for instance.”
And what about false self-employment, whereby employers try to avoid paying social security contributions for employees? Employers who do this risk heavy fines and even criminal charges. The authorities use four assessment criteria: the intention to commit to self-employed collaboration, the freedom to choose one’s working hours, the freedom to organise one’s own work, and the possibility of exercising hierarchical checks. Special criteria apply for some sectors, such as construction, security services, transport and cleaning.